In the past three years, about 30 new developments have occurred in the Urban Loop, a roughly four-square-mile area surrounding Interstate Highway 35-80 between Merle Hay and Hickman roads in Urbandale.

With the recent opening of two new interstate interchanges – the flyover bridge that connects the interstate with Iowa Highway 141 and the half-diamond interchange at Meredith Drive – Urbandale officials are hoping to see development accelerate even more.

"Clearly there’s been a pause in 2020 [because of the pandemic] as businesses reassess, but I absolutely think that we’re going to see more investment in the coming months and years," said Curtis Brown, Urbandale’s assistant city manager and economic development director.

Urbandale has about 700 acres of developable commercial, retail, office and light industrial land near the two new interchanges. The undeveloped ground has access to water and sewer lines and major roadways. Businesses that locate in the area would benefit from the estimated 100,000 vehicles a day that travel on the portion of I-35/80 that goes through Urbandale, Brown said.

"We are definitely excited to see what [those interchanges] now bring to development in the area," he said. "A location at the top of an interchange is going to be a good location. An office or a light industrial location that is in a professional setting within a mile of an interchange is going to be a good location."

Construction of the flyover bridge and the Meredith interchange began in 2017. The new ramps were needed to accommodate the increased traffic in the area caused by commercial and residential growth west and north of the interstate. It was not unusual for traffic exiting at Highway 141 to back up onto the interstate, creating dangerous situations.

Several new developments have gotten underway since the start of the $65 million interstate improvement project, including a new office building for the Iowa Bankers Association, a new car wash, a dentist’s office and a preschool, Brown said.

One area that could benefit more immediately from the new interchanges is light industrial. The pandemic-related increase to e-commerce is fueling demand for warehouse distribution sites to be as close as possible to customers. Building warehouses close to interstate interchanges provides quick and easy access to transportation routes to and from airports as well as to other cities throughout the country, experts say.

Knapp Properties has two parcels that could benefit from the opening of the interchanges, said Aimee Staudt, vice president and director of development for the company. One parcel is at Meredith and Northwest Urbandale drives.

"I know that in the months leading up to the opening, we definitely have seen an increase in interest," Staudt said. "We’re really excited to see what kind of an increase we’ll see in traffic along there now that the [interchange] is open."

In addition, the company has a parcel at Northwest 100th Street and Northwest 54th Avenue, Staudt said.

A four-story office building is located on the intersection’s northeast corner. The other three corners are undeveloped.

Staudt said traffic in the area increased when the interstate improvement project was underway.

"That’s an area we feel will start to fill in with more office buildings," she said. ν